Monday, November 15, 2010

(IDF) IDF Watchmen At Sea

"IDF Website joined the Israeli Navy’s Dvora company responsible for routine security on borders for a short dive into the maritime fighters’ world.

The Israeli Navy’s Dvora Company is one of the busiest in the entire Navy. Day by day, hour by hour, the company’s soldiers guard Israel’s maritime border, fighting alongside the rest of the Navy in a state of emergency. But it’s not enough to be a savvy mechanic or a savvy sailor to be a Dvora fighter. You must be able to live at sea for long periods of time in a small, contained dwelling that sways to and fro.

IDF Website joined company 914 on their training for various scenarios on the northern border. At noon on the platform, a number of Dvora patrol boats from the Pras commando unit were ready to set out for a training exercise. The weather was unusually hot for November, breezy, the sea waters calm and flat. The soldiers ran back and forth on the platform, yelling instructions at each other. One could feel the excitement rising as the time to set out to sea approached.

Within a few minutes, the boats began leaving the dock one by one, amid a fanfare of the soldiers’ shouts and songs bursting from the boats’ speakers. Six hours later, we found ourselves in the heart of the ocean, surrounded by utter darkness and gusts of freezing wind around us.

The maritime border guard

When one speaks about the Israeli Navy, one immediately thinks of the Shayetet 13 naval commandos, the Submarine Commando or missile ships but the Dvora Company works very quietly and just as hard. The company, sometimes called Batash, keeps an eye on the maritime border and makes sure that no hostile perpetrator enters Israel’s territorial waters. The company operates 365 days a year and 24 hours a day, in every season and in every situation. Though most of the work is routine security, the company also holds monthly training exercises to be prepared for any possible scenario.

The Dvora Company is named after its legendary naval vessel, the Dvor, which, until recently, was the only one it sailed. Its been replaced these past few years by the Super Dvora Mk III and the Shaldag class Fast Patrol Boats. The Dvora is light and small, a 5.7-meter wide patrol boat able to reach high speeds. The Dvora has front and rear cannons as well as two machine guns. The company is divided into units commanded by officers with the rank of Captain.

Cooperation with ground forces

The exercise begins when four Dvora boats meet in the heart of the ocean, just off Haifa’s coast, for a competition called 'measurements'. The purpose of the competition is to raise the soldiers’ motivation for the training exercise, the mission to prepare the Dvora boat for operations in several steps. The winning Dvora is the one which finishes the mission first.

In the second part of the exercise, the Dvora soldiers practiced seamanship, routine security measure scenarios and shooting at night. During the training, soldiers did not stop working for a minute - not one minute of rest. Though the work is divided between seamanship and mechanics the sailor-mechanics do most of the work together with impressive professionalism.

An unexpected guest joined the training, namely the 914 Company’s Commander, Lt. Col. Oren Nahbas. Apparently, hospitality is part of the Dvora’s personnel tradition. 'We’re kind of sadistic,' told us Oren with a mischievous smile. 'We like it when people join us, get wet and throw up,' he said referring to us. As mentioned, it is not easy to serve at sea. The Dvora soldier spends an average of 200 hours per month at sea. 'The company’s weekly schedule is packed,' said Lt. Col. Nahbas and explained that besides routine security patrols, the Dvora boats and soldiers need to always be ready to go into combat and therefore are required to carry out many training exercise because 'we must not get complacent.'

These days, the company is striving to conduct training exercises according to the lessons learnt from the Second Lebanon War, Operation Cast Lead and Operation Sea Breeze (the Turkish flotilla to the Gaza Strip). The company that we joined did not take a significant part in Operation Cast Lead, but the successes resulting from cooperation between the Navy, ground and air forces have to do with them as well. 'That was a big success in terms of cooperation between the Navy and the ground forces, a kind of quantum leap,' explained Lt. Col. Nahbas.

'You need to know how to win in every situation'

In order to maintain the calm at the northern border, the Israeli Navy tries to reduce friction with the Lebanese. UN vessels also sail at sea, just like at land borders, and the Navy is usually in constant contact with the Coordination Headquarters, called N.O.C. 'Following the event that occurred last August at the border between Israel and Lebanon which resulted in the death of a Battalion Commander in reserves, we maintain a particularly high level of alertness,' explained Lt. Col. Nahbas. 'We want to heighten awareness and prepare ourselves for every scenario.'

At the end of the exercise, on the way back to port, the Dvora boats lit up the sky with their lights. There was a special feeling of excitement in the air, as before a get together. Once all the Dvora boats had been tied to port, the Company Commander sat members of one of the Dvora boats on the bow of the boat and summarized the exercise. The soldiers were already tired and could hardly cooperate. 'You need to know how to win in every situation,' the Company Commander said simply." (source)

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